Yesterday, I intended to get started on one of the closets.
But really, though things are “off” now, that’s okay. I discovered something else that was not on my agenda that I needed to do. Ironing. (but so much more than ironing.) I hate ironing and do so as little as possible. But yesterday, through pure inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother, whom I’d been asking for help and guidance in my vocation, I ironed. I ironed a lot (for me, anyway!) I ironed 4 dress shirts and 2 pairs of dockers for Chief. I prayed 15 decades of the rosary and still had more ironing to do!
Now, this may not seem at all significant, but it really is. God has been chipping away at me lately and I had come to realize that I have really been failing. Now I don’t mean in things like household duties (though that is true, too.) I mean I have been failing in my marriage (no, we were not in an ugly place, jut not in the great place God calls us to.)
Very slowly, imperceptibly I had stopped doing things for Chief. I mean I take care of the kids and homeschool and shop and cook. Of course I do. But I had stopped “the little things” the little “extra” things that say, “I love you.” Slowly, slowly they eroded away. I did not wake up one morning and say, “this is cr*p and I’m not doing it anymore.” I just cut this corner here and that corner there and suddenly I realized that I had cut lots of corners, mostly related to serving Chief in what, in our household, are the “above and beyond” ways. Chief does not expect me to do his ironing. I’ve never done it consistently. He usually does it and while he doesn’t love it, he doesn’t mind. However, I used to do it from time to time to ease his burden. It had been a loooong time since I last did it. I am talking years!
Yesterday before Chief headed out the door, later than he wanted to leave (not late, mind you, but later than he desired) he mentioned that he really needed to start ironing his clothes the night before. It was too much to try to do in the morning before work. He was clearly frustrated. I sympathized, agreed that doing it the night before was a good idea and would make his mornings easier and even suggested that perhaps just taking his things to the cleaners was the better idea. Sure, it’s not free, but you know, you pay with money, with stress or with time. I even told him I would handle the drop-off and pick up. I’m out each day anyway! How generous of me!
So, off he went. I was sitting at the computer and suddenly it hit me. Almost like a command, but gentler. Still it was strong. “Iron for him.” I thought back, “Huh?” “Iron for him.” By the great and abundant grace of God, I determined to obey. I further determined to iron enough shirts for the rest of the week and the pants, too. I grabbed my iPod, set it up to play the Healing Rosary by Dana and Father Scanlon and I set to work.
As I ironed, I realized two things:
First, I HATE our ironing board. SuperSoldier had picked one up for me when the last one fell apart. He got one with “bells and whistles.” It had been so long since I ironed, I didn’t realize that I actually hated this thing that I’d owned for many, many months. It’s got the little thingy on the end to “hold” the iron. It doesn’t hold the iron. It only gets in the way of the wider part of the ironing board. Hrmph. I guess I’m getting a new one very soon!
Second, I realized what I already told you. I had stopped serving Chief in all but routine ways. I had stopped looking for ways to ease his burdens and serve him. I had stopped doing all those little things I used to do to serve him. In some ways, it had become, “Every man for himself” around here (in all directions, really, not just with me or Chief and me.)
And I was wrong to stop. And it caused some conflict from time to time! I don’t think either of us really realized what was at the root of it, but I now know that this was it ~ or a large part of it. I had stopped serving willingly and generously. And, quite frankly, he had too for the most part. I don’t know who stopped first and I don’t really care. I just know that when I stood there, ironing his shirts (on a board I hated that made the job much harder and longer than it should have been!) I felt the grace of God fill my soul. I felt a deep, deep joy in serving my husband in this way.
I did wonder if Chief would appreciate it. I wondered if I’d do it to his “standard” and if he’d get annoyed by it if I didn’t. I wondered if he would take it and me for granted. And you know what? I didn’t care!!!!
It was so right to reach out and do what I ought (whether or not I ever do that particular service again) and serve the Lord Jesus by serving my husband generously rather than minimally. My attachment and affection for Chief grew in that hour plus that I spent ironing. Imagine that. My attachment for him grew because I served him, without being asked to. My attachment did not grow as a result of him doing something to meet my needs or ease my burdens. It grew as a result of my doing for him! It didn’t matter even for a second if he appreciated it or reciprocated or anything. The joy in giving freely refreshed my heart and my mind.
I think this is a lesson I knew once upon a time. I think this was something that I understood deep down in my soul, but I had forgotten. I had stopped serving in the extra ways. And in that, I had damaged my attachment to him and probably his to me. Please don’t read more into that than there is: we were not on the brink of divorce, nor were we completely miserable, but we were in a funk of some sort. The blahs. The ho-hums. The love was not vibrant. It was real, but it was dull. And the peace in our marriage and family was much more easily disturbed and I believe that this is at the root of that ~ or at least in part. A big part.
I was reminded that rather than feeling oppressed or burdened myself because there was something else that I needed to do, that serving others brings a freedom that nothing else can. In laying down my life (or my “to do” list) I received much more than I had expected, even though I knew that is how it works.
I thank God for reminding me of this and for instilling in me, through that one act of obedience, that one act of sacrifice, that one act of love, a deep, deep desire to continue to find ways to deny myself and pick up my cross and serve my husband and children in a deeper, more generous way.
And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.